AFTER his second season was destroyed by persistent shoulder problems, Tom Lee believes 2015 could be the year he silences his critics and makes a telling contribution to St Kilda's forward line.

It's no secret the 24-year-old has struggled since being plucked from the WAFL in late 2012 for his second crack at an AFL career.

Saints fans have questioned why the club traded pick No.12 for him (in a deal that also netted them draftees Nathan Wright and Josh Saunders) when his fitness and form has limited him to just 13 senior appearances in two years.

But Lee's shoulder problems, which started in his last WAFL season playing for Claremont in 2012, run much deeper than many think. 

They haven't made it easy for the West Australian to make the impact he – and everyone else – wants him to, after a promising end to 2013.

Saints, Blues eye annual Anzac Day game in NZ

"The criticism … I've copped a fair bit of that last year, obviously coming in as a reasonably high pick, there's pressure there and the fans expect a lot," Lee told this week.

"I've definitely felt that pressure, not only externally but sometimes internally as well, but obviously I know what I've been through in terms of injury.

"The club knows what I've been through and now I'm finally turning a corner.

"I'm very excited about this year and hopefully that can show up in games and I can actually give a bit back to the club."

Lee first injured his right shoulder midway through the 2012 WAFL season. In the last game of the same year, he hurt the left.

Both injuries needed surgery but he was so desperate to make it onto an AFL list – and make an impression once he did – that he put the operations off for 12 months.

That decision meant he was available to play in his first year as a Saint but hadn't been free to lift the weights he needed to in order to get stronger and make an impact.

Then, at the end of 2013, he had both shoulders reconstructed in operations two weeks apart that came with roughly six months of projected rehabilitation.

He was back training in March and in the same week played in the pre-season competition, but knew he wasn't ready.

Tom Lee is back in good shape and aiming at a round one berth against GWS. Picture: AFL Media

"I wasn't in the best shape. I'd never had surgery that bad and I didn't really know how to operate with an injury that bad, in terms of how I treated my body," he said 

"A few times I thought rehab was going really well, I wasn't getting pain and I was lifting proper weights. 

"Then I'd get a little bit carried away and keen and I'd go hard for a week and that would set me back another month."

This went on all last season. He played three senior games and nine in the VFL but struggled in most of them.

He had to deal with soreness in both shoulders, and it was decided he would wrap up his season after round 17 and have surgery to remove screws from his reconstructions.   

The screws were taken out of his right shoulder but were too embedded in his left, so the surgeon tidied things up and sent him back for more rehabilitation.

This summer, Lee has been better with his recovery. He's done as many sessions as he can with his teammates and has been sensible in the gym.

This week, he was finally able to lift the same weights as his peers.

"Now that I've learnt how to do it, I think if I had to get surgery again I'd come off it in a lot better way," he said,

"It took a long time of playing catch-up to get myself to a level to play and then by the time I did finally play, I realised how far back I actually was.

"That's the one thing I've been happy with this pre-season – I've been able to consistently train without having any setbacks … that's the difference, just knowing what it can handle. 

Rhys Stanley, incidentally one of Lee's closest mates at the club, has left St Kilda for Geelong and his absence could provide Lee with more senior opportunities this season.

And, with the backing of coach Alan Richardson and the club, which signed him to a two-year contract extension in October, Lee is determined to prove himself this year – starting in the NAB Challenge, and then in round one against Greater Western Sydney on April 5.

"I'd be selling myself short if I didn't say I was aiming for round one," he said.

"It will be tough, it will be challenging – it always is early in the season for spots – but I'll definitely be putting my hand up for that."